This section is from the book "Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery", by Mary E. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery; A Textbook Of Domestic Science For Use In Schools.
A salad must be cold, the greens in it crisp; the ingredients in the dressing carefully proportioned and blended so that it shall be neither oily nor acid, and the whole well-mixed. With these conditions fulfilled, a handful of lettuce leaves dressed with salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar is in its way a perfect dish. Because of the judgment and deftness required to produce this perfection, it is often desirable to dress the salad at the table rather than to have it brought to the table dressed.
Lettuce is used as a bed for any salad. As soon as it comes into the house, sprinkle it, and put it in the ice-box, in a covered pail, if you can. To prepare it for use, cut off the stem, separate the leaves, discard the outside ones, and let the others lie for at least fifteen minutes in the coldest water you can provide. Wash them clean, taking care not to break them; look sharply to see that no insects cling to them; shake lightly or swing them in a wire basket or a salad-net 1 to dry them partially; and wipe them carefully with a soft cloth. If left wet, the dressing runs off them. Freshen and dry other salad leaves in the same way. Other vegetables. - (For tomatoes and cucumbers, see p. 247.) Remove the strings from string beans, and cook them without breaking or cutting. Keep parsley in a glass of water, with only the roots wet. Cut cooked vegetables except potatoes into halfinch cubes, or small irregular bits. Put remnants of cooked vegetables into a colander and pour hot water over them to rinse off any butter.
1 Bags made of coarse netting are sold for this purpose.
If only lettuce is to be served, put it in a pretty bowl, either glass, or of some color that looks well with the green of the leaves. Arrange these to form a frill above the edge of the dish, and let the centre be a nest of cool shadowy green. The arranging of salads gives a girl a chance to display artistic skill no less than does the embroidering of a doily, or the making of a sketch. How satisfactory to be able to combine those few spoonfuls of peas, beets, potatoes, and what not, left from two or three dinners into a pyramid of pretty colors, wreathed with green and blossoming with radish "rose-buds"! (Mace-doine Salad.) Or, starting with fresh materials, what pleasure may be found in bringing out the beauty of glowing tomatoes nestled in palest green, and crowned with golden Mayonnaise! (Stuffed Tomato Salad.) Nor do thrift and taste and judgment alone come into play in salad-making; use your originality and invention, and you can produce many a salad not described in cook-books, but delightful to eye and taste.
Mix oil and seasonings in the salad spoon, pour them over the lettuce, and toss and turn this till every leaf is coated. Then add the vinegar, and toss again. To vary the flavor, have the salad bowl rubbed with a "clove of garlic," or have a piece of bread rubbed with garlic at the bottom of the bowl.
While the food value of a green salad is not large, the salts it supplies and its refreshing, appetizing qualities make it a most wholesome food. The oil or butter used in dressing it furnishes fat in a digestible form. The acid vinegar is believed to help digest the cellulose. Salads are prepared with little trouble and with no expense for fuel. Some vegetable suitable for salad can be obtained all the year round, even canned ones making, with fresh greens, an acceptable dish. If you cannot have salad every day, have it as often as you can. Some people now have salad instead of dessert, and if you cannot have both at the same dinner, it is well to substitute salad for pudding two or three times a week at least.